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AGRICULTURAL LANDS

ASSESSMENT Of PROPOSED PIONEER MEADOWS SUBDIVISION
CONTAINING APPLEGATE TRAIL RESOURCES

IV.D. Agricultural Lands

1. Agricultural Soils

The soil features for the Proposed Pioneer Meadow Subdivision follow.

Soil Survey. There are 111 soils identified in the 1983 soil survey. The Soil Survey identified 46 soils that with a high level of management were suitable for alfalfa hay, grass hay, pasture, and corn silage (pages 178 - 180, Table 5, Soil Survey).1 Forty-three (43) soils were identified as agricultural lands because their soils were I - IV, irrigated or unirrigated.

Agricultural Land — in western Oregon is land of predominantly Land Capability Class (LCC) I, II, III and IV soils as classified by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). It also includes land in other soil classes that is suitable for farm use taking into consideration soil fertility; suitability for grazing; climatic conditions; existing and future availability of water for farm irrigation purposes; existing land use patterns; technological and energy inputs required; and accepted farming practices; and land that is necessary to permit farm practices to be undertaken on adjacent or nearby agricultural lands.

Soil Surveys. The NRCS soil surveys are the main or most readily available, and most universally accepted, source of information regarding farm and forest capabilities. The soil surveys not only provide what is often the only data available; the methodology used in the soil surveys serves as the bench mark for gathering new or additional data (i.e., equivalent data to NRCS data).

Unrated Soils. Sixty-five (65) soils were not rated as suitable for alfalfa hay, grass hay, pasture, and corn silage. However, of the 46 soils rated, four were Class VI, non-irrigated.

Capability Classes, the broadest groups are designated by Roman numerals I through VIII (pages 110 - 111, Soil Survey1). The numerals indicate progressively greater limitations and narrow choices for practical use. Capability subclasses are soil groups within one class. They are designated by adding a small letter, e, w, s, or c, to the class numeral, for example IIe. The letter e shows that the main limitation is risk of erosion unless close-growing plant cover is maintained; w shows that water in or on the soil interferes with plant growth or cultivation (in some soils the wetness can be partly corrected by artificial drainage); s shows that the soil is limited mainly because it is shallow, drought, or stony; and c, used in only some parts of the United States, shows that the chief limitation is climate that is very cold or very dry.

Agricultural Land. A crucial compliance question as defined by Goal 3 is whether the land is agricultural land. Three of the six soils on the subject property are agricultural land according to the 1983 SCS/NRCS soil survey. Agricultural Land — in western Oregon is land of predominantly LCC I, II, III and IV soils as classified by the NRCS (OAR 660-015-0000(3)). Not surprisingly all the bottom meadow land is agricultural land: 12B, 12D, and 18B. The map unit 18B Copsey clay requires irrigation in the summer for maximum production of most crops (LCC IIIw, i), but it is rated as Agricultural Class IV without irrigation (LCC IVw, ni). The "w" in both cases identifies that water in or on the soil interferes with plant growth or cultivation (see Section IV.B.).

The huge majority of the soils (12B, 12D, 18B, and 42D) on the subject property were mapped at a second order survey which account for approximately 76 acres and 77 percent of the subject property. These soils have a second order level survey which were identified by field observation and by remotely sensed data. This data is considered intensive and is to be used for general agriculture and urban planning. Second order intensive surveys are considered reliable, unlike third order surveys (see Section IV.B.).

SCS/NRCS Soils Of Subject Property Slope Land Capability
    Class (LCC)
     
12B Brockman cobby clay loam 2 to 7 % slopes IIIs, i & VIe, ni
12D Brockman cobby clay loam 7 to 20% slopes IVe, i & VIe, ni
18B Copsey clay 3 to 7% slopes IIIw, i & IVw, ni
42D Holland sandy loam cool 12 to 20% slopes  
70F Siskiyou gravelly sandy loam 35 to 70% north slopes  
71F Siskiyou gravelly sandy loam 35 to 60% south slopes  

The expert witness Soil Classifier for the applicant provided alternate information about 18B–Copsey clay as identified for the subject property from the 1983 Soil Survey (see Section IV.C.3.).2 The expert witness purported to change the Land Capability Classification of 18B from IVw, non-irrigated to LCC VIw. However, it is difficult to understand the differences between the Order I soil survey for 18B–Copsey clay by the expert witness and the Order II soil survey in the Soil Survey.

The following is from the expert witness Soil Classifier.

"Extensive examination of this unit showed that a restrictive layer comprised of dense, massive clay was common within 15 inches of the surface with a range of 8 to 23 inches. Roots were rarely found to penetrate into this massive layer. Soil drainage has been greatly restricted and surface ponding can occur during the wet season."

The Soil Survey1 by NRCS Soil Classifiers identified the following.

This deep, poorly drained soil is found in drainageways. Typically, the surface layer is black clay about 18 inches thick. Permeability of the soil is very slow. Effective rooting depth is limited by a seasonal high water table that is at a depth of 6 to 18 inches in winter and spring. This soil is subject to rare periods of flooding. The vegetation in most areas is sedges, rushes, and grasses.

The following is from the expert witness Soil Classifier.

"The production of vegetation is limited by the low fertility of the soil. The ultramafic rock from which the soil is developed is very high in content of magnesium and very low in calcium, which limits plant growth. The main limitations for pasture are low fertility of the soil, excessive wetness, and very slow permeability."

The Soil Survey1 by NRCS Soil Classifiers identified the following.

The production of vegetation is limited by the low fertility of the soil. The ultramafic rock from which the soil is developed is very high in content of magnesium and very low in calcium, which limits plant growth. The main limitations for pasture are low fertility of the soil, excessive wetness, and very slow permeability.

The Order I soil survey and the Order II soil survey are so close as to be virtually the same, and, therefore, the purported change to the LCC of 18B from IVw, non-irrigated to LCC Viw does not any merit as there is no change. Also, the soil descriptions in the 1983 Soil Survey were not challenged with an application for a change to the county’s official soils and wetlands inventories. Therefore, the alternate soils and wetland opinions are a moot point and the hearing body must use the current soils and wetlands inventories in its decision-making.

2. Summary

The huge majority of the soils (12B, 12D, 18B, and 42D) on the subject property were mapped with reliable second order intensive surveys which account for approximately 76 acres and 77 percent of the subject property. These soils were identified by field observation and by remotely sensed data.

There is a conflict between the Soil Survey by NRCS Soil Classifiers and the expert witness Soil Classifier concerning the LCC of 18B Copsey clay. Regardless of any positions pro or con, the merits of any proposed changes can not be decided by the hearing body(s) without an application for a change to the official soils and wetlands inventories; the hearing body must use the current soils and wetlands inventories in its decision-making.

1. United States Department of Agriculture. Soil Conservation Service. December 1983. Soil Survey of Josephine County, Oregon. (0R033) (Now Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

2. The Galli Group. August 2006. Subdivision Tentative Plan Application Items Pioneer Meadows Subdivision Grants Pass, Oregon. Section 8.0 Wetlands (page 13); Appendix C. Grants Pass, OR.

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